THE managing director of the Brown Thomas group has strongly and unequivocally dismissed persistent rumours that its Limerick store is set to close because of the economic downturn.
It is almost 20 years since Brown Thomas bought the former Todds building, on O’Connell Street in the heart of the city.
At 4,000 square metres it is one of the city’s flagship stores and its continuing success is regarded by many as essential for the future growth of the city.
Stephen Sealey, who travelled from Dublin to meet with staff at the Limerick store yesterday, says he is “really annoyed” at the rumours which first began to circulate last year. Yesterday was the first time the company has commented publicly about the speculation.
“I don’t like to dignify rumours by commenting on them but this had gotten to the stage where I felt I needed to say to people the store is not closing,” he said.
“The situation is that the store is not closing, we are going to continue trading. Brown Thomas is a financially secure organisation,” added Mr Sealey, who also pointed out that the group was prudent during the boom period.
“During the good times we paid off every cent of debt we had, we have money in the bank, we own the freehold of the store and – above all – the Limerick store, like all of the stores, is profitable. So why would we close it?”
Mr Sealey, who has been managing director of the Brown Thomas group for 18 months, has been working with the company for over a decade having previously been in the role of buying director.
He says the rumours about the future of the Limerick store have been unhelpful especially as there are more than 200 people employed there. “At the end of the day there are 250 people who are working in the store and rumours like this can affect business and they can affect their livelihoods, so I felt I had to stand up and say ‘No, the store is not closing and we have a long-term future in Limerick’.”
The former Penney’s executive said he had no idea where the rumours came from and added that it is not the first time there have been rumours about stores in group. “We actually faced a similar rumour in Galway, which was equally upsetting and again the same situation applies there so why would we want to close it?
“What we are doing is we are continuing to invest in the store [in Limerick]. We have just opened Warehouse on the ground floor which is very successful and we have other plans for this year,” he said.
Mr Sealey confirmed that a number of new brands will be added before the summer and that cosmetics department on the ground floor will be completely refurbished.